In preparation for the upcoming sequel, this is based off of my original review when I first saw Peter Rabbit and how I now see it after I first found it kind of amusing but not good enough to recommend.
James Corden plays Peter, a rabbit third, a rascal and rebel first and second. He’s the leader of a wild fluffle of bunnies, if wild counts when they’re not technically owned by aspiring painter Beatrix Potter (Rose Byrne, performing with her accent from Spy but her characters as different as possible) but she feeds them and lets them live under a tree right near her. There’s a good reason Peter’s a rascal and rebel. Bea’s old neighbour, McGregor (Sam Neill) killed his parents, so he feels it’s only right to steal from, outsmart, and injure him however they can, regardless of what his cousin Benjamin, and sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail fear. One day, McGregor ends up dying of a heart attack he definitely didn’t work hard to prevent, leaving the rabbits and other local animals to have the best party ever. It wouldn’t surprise me if they drank whatever alcoholic beverages are okay for animals to have. Well, okay in undeadly regards. Maybe that’s regular wine and beer. I’m no biologist.
But the party’s short lived (the party of victory, anyway) when Mr. McGregor’s great-nephew, Thomas (Domnhall Gleeson) moves in after being a little too passionate about his job at a toy store in high up London. He at first has no interest in staying in the beautiful country, but has second thoughts after taking a liking to Bea and Bea takes a liking to him. When it seems Thomas is going to not only steal Peter’s mother figure but be a new ruthless guardian of his garden, he gives himself the task to show just who’s boss of the greenery.
If I ever read a Peter Rabbit book as a baby, or one was read to me, I have zero memory of it. But I did have some Peter Rabbit portraits framed in my room. There was also a short book from my childhood called The Girl Who Hated Books and Peter had a cameo in a rather surprisingly heartbreaking part. Both iterations of the character were peaceful and cute. So imagine my surprise when I would reunite with the character from my infant years in a feature that’s anything but peaceful and will fire a red pepper into your mouth for calling it cute.
My original review for Peter Rabbit was a C+, and my problems with the film were these three things: First, I found the montage where Neill’s character disgustingly and kind of disturbingly takes bad care of himself just…off. It was unrealistically timed and too gross. Second, there was a scene where the slapstick got too cruel, forcing Thomas McGregor to expose his most sensitive areas for painful slingshots and then choking on something the rabbits knew as an allergen for him. The third reason was Thomas was meant to have a redemption arc, which is fine in its own right, but I wasn’t convinced enough he was the decent man he claimed to be. But over time after I gave my review, I remembered how I did have fun, I smiled a fair few times, I was surprised at how daring it was to be its own thing and I was certainly surprised at the resolution.
While I still think those three flaws bring the movie down, this movie has a lot of committed fun with its gleeful violence and twisting of what we expect from a character named Peter Rabbit. The constant garden rake bonks to the head, the fake-out of how the characters, as well as the audience, assume the reentry timing of Byrne’s character during a fight scene, Gleeson deliberately drinking toilet water, and later on yelling in pure fear reuniting with the rabbits, are all some of quite a few scenes that are as edgy as they’re laugh-out-loud funny. If Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is anything like this, I don’t think you’ll hear me complaining. I just hope it doesn’t go quite as occasionally off-road.